Top Mobile Development Platform: iPhone, Windows, Android, Blackberry?

The leading smartphone platforms each have an array of pluses and minuses. What’s the best smartphone platform for your company?


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Smartphones are entering the enterprise through the back door. This is nothing new. Plenty of technologies (laptops, WiFi, thumb drives) first caught on in consumer markets and then sneaked their way into the enterprise. Employees began using the devices for work well before organizations adapted secure usage policies and IT controls.

With an array of handsets, carriers and development platforms to deal with, the mobile enterprise today is – and will probably remain for the next two years – extremely “fragmented,” which is industry jargon for: everyone in the workplace is using different phones/devices running different operating systems.

While developers may want to bet on a platform that best matches their organizations’ business goals, chances are they’ll wind up having to eventually develop for several different mobile OSes.

Many firms are already coping with both BlackBerries and iPhones. Meanwhile, Android is starting to trickle in, and there’s a huge legacy of old Windows Mobile phones that won’t necessarily run Windows Phone 7, but could be replaced by it.

Still, most organizations don’t have the resources to tackle everything at once, so you have to start somewhere. Developers can do their due diligence and choose a “best” platform, but it’s unlikely that all of their users will be on the same OS.

To muddy the waters even further, there’s talk of how future mobile apps will all be Web-based and built on HTML 5, which will obviate this problem.

It’s an optimistic argument that looks good on paper, but when you talk to developers they’ll tell you that standardization only goes so far. For instance, different versions of Android already have different features sets built in (different things that pop up when you hit the menu key, for instance, or different ways to access the camera). While those little variations seem trivial, someone has to deal with them, and that someone is a developer.

If this seems, to quote Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again, you won’t be the first person to see the parallels between early smartphone fights and the dawn of the PC era. In that long ago time developers had to juggle Apple, Commodore, IBM, Microsoft and a number of other proprietary platforms.

For those of you who’ve yet to pick sides, here are today’s top mobile contenders.

1. iPhone (& iPad)

If you’re wondering why I put the iPad alongside the iPhone, it probably says as much about my predictions for the future of mobile as anything. Smartphones have already hit the mainstream. According to the most recent comScore MobileLens statistics, 49.1 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in May 2010, up 8.1 percent from the corresponding February period.

Nielsen predicts that smartphones will surpass features phones in percentage sales by Q3 of 2011, representing 51 percent of the market, up from 27 percent in Q4 2009. Meanwhile, Apple boasts that it sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days of general availability.

Call it a tablet, call it a super-duper e-book reader, call it a multimedia laptop minus the keyboard, call it what you will, but the iPad has more in common with its smartphone cousins than a laptop or desktop.

Next Page: Android

top smartphone platform, May 2010

* May data does not include Apple’s launch of iPhone 4, which became available in June. However, according to Apple, it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4’s in the first three days of availability (June24 through June 26).

Next Page: Android

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Tags: Blackberry, iPhone, iphone apps, iPad apps, best smartphones

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